- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 29, 2003

Ellen Odellas-Van Edwards, a retired 42-year federal employee, performed nifty clown tricks yesterday and won the Miss Congeniality award on the way to becoming Ms. Senior District of Columbia this year.

“Yes, I’m older, but I plan to get even older,” said Mrs. Edwards, who sometimes walks with a cane and who raised two daughters alone after her husband died at age 52. She also has four grandsons.

Mrs. Edwards was among five finalists at the pageant for women over 60, which was held in the University of the District of Columbia’s main auditorium.

She succeeds Daisy J. Savage, who has 29 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, as the titleholder.

“What seniors do makes a difference,” Mrs. Savage said.

The pageant has been held sporadically in the District since 1980 through a program of the D.C. Office on Aging, the D.C. Senior America Cameo Club and the city’s Family and Child Services. About 350 people attended the event yesterday.

Duties of the winners include attending special D.C. programs, visiting senior centers and appearing at such functions as church events and parades.

“There are 92,000 seniors in the District,” said E. Veronica Pace, executive director of the Office on Aging. “They are an inspiration and encouragement.”

Mrs. Edwards will represent the District in the national Ms. Senior America Pageant in Reno, Nev., on Nov. 3. She also received $200, a ticket for the Big Band Cruise on the Spirit of Washington and $200 toward an evening gown purchase.

“I didn’t win, but I had a lot of fun,” said Mrs. Savage, referring to the national pageant last year in Biloxi, Miss.

Mrs. Edwards is a D.C. native who graduated from Dunbar High School and Atlantic Business College, from which she won the outstanding alumni award in 1966. She was employed in the U.S. Patent Office, now called the Patent and Trademark Office, for 42 years.

The following were the other finalists:

Ella Ruth Baldwin, who was employed by the federal government for eight years and by Georgetown University Hospital for seven years.

Annette Matthews-Gant, 64 and a native Washingtonian, who was raised in a family of singers, actors and dancers.

Virgilena Lee, 77, who was 11 months old when her mother died in South Carolina. She moved to the District when she was 18, worked 25 years with the Red Cross and 15 years with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Verna Shelton, born in West Virginia, graduated from nursing school and received an appreciation award in 1999.

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